No one is dispensable. For over 20 years, TeamChild has held true to its belief that youth should not be defined by their worst mistake. Instead, young people deserve to be heard and seen as an essential part of the community. Their mission is to, “uphold the rights of youth involved, or at risk of being involved, in the juvenile justice system to help them secure the education, healthcare, housing and other supports they need to achieve positive outcomes in their lives.”
“We operate with the basic belief that youth should not be incarcerated. Youth deserve belonging and power in their community. Systems only increase harm,” said Reyna Rollolazo, community engagement and anti-racism director.
Incarceration isolates youth from their family and friends. TeamChild’s website highlights that “punitive ‘solutions’ often exacerbate the challenges youth face and fail to hold agencies accountable for the role they play in contributing to these problems.”
TeamChild offers free legal representation to youth who are court-involved, and help in navigating health care, education, and housing supports. When a young person is introduced to TeamChild, they are invited to be their true selves.
“We’re not just interested in what brought them there, but who they are as people. Our team works to establish trust and build relationships,” said Rollolazo. “Attorneys see clients as young people with their own goals and agency and work from a strengths-based approach.”
“What makes TeamChild unique is our holistic legal support. We walk alongside clients and their families through the system and offer guidance,” said Elysa Hovard, director of investments and partnerships.
In order to ensure sustainable results in their work, the organization also focuses on partnerships within communities to hear community needs, concerns, goals, and strategies. The organization works with youth and communities across Washington state, including King, Pierce, Yakima, and Spokane county.
“We are not there to take up spaces that are not ours. We are relying on the community to understand their needs and uplift their voice,” said Hovard.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide for their clients and funding from the Washington Youth Development Nonprofit Relief Fund helped them purchase necessities for a virtual world. The funding also supported hiring a temporary Policy Coordinator to continue their work at the legislative level.
When Rollolazo and Hovard were asked what they wanted the community to know about TeamChild, their answers came with an undeniable strength. “We’re youth-driven and we are committed to living that principle more fully in all that we do,” said Rollolazo.
Hovard emphasized, “TeamChild is unafraid to face a system or barrier. We will continue to center our values and youth.”